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Open Access Publications from the University of California

More of a Bridge than a Gap: Gender Differences in Arab-American Political Engagement


Objective. Research on immigrant women’s economic and cultural adaptation has increasingly come to the fore of immigration research, yet relatively little remains known about their engagement in the political arena. This study examines this question among Arab Muslims, a group who has been at the center of much public debate but little scholarly discourse. Methods. Using nationally representative data on Arab Muslims, this study examines gender differences in political consciousness and activity and assesses the degree to which different dimensions of religious identity contribute to differences in men’s and women’s attitudes and behaviors. Results. Both women and men have high levels of political engagement, in part reflecting their relatively affluent socioeconomic positions. Men are slightly more involved than women, and this is explained by their greater participation in religious activities and higher levels of political religiosity. In contrast, subjective dimensions of religiosity—or being a devout Muslim—have no effect on political engagement. Conclusions. Overall, there are few gender differences in Arab Muslim political engagement, suggesting that collective identity based on ethnicity and religion is more salient for the political mobilization of this group. Further, religion is not uniformly associated with political activity, varying by gender and the dimension of religious identity in question, suggesting that future research needs to focus on how different facets of religion influence U.S. political involvement.

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